Green Woods Charter switches gears, explores move to Domino Lane

While officials won’t confirm details, it appears the Green Woods Charter School won’t be moving to Manayunk’s Germany Hill but is eyeing another location nearby in Roxborough.

Long a target of preservation efforts by neighbors and area civic associations, indications are that Germany Hill, an undeveloped 20-acre tract between Fountain Street and Parker Avenue, will remain that way, likely with the help of Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. Instead, the local civic association says, the school is exploring a possible move to Domino Lane and has contacted the owner of the Keenan’s Valley View Inn property.

“The councilman is committed to keeping [Germany Hil] open, and to have no further development in that area,” Jones’ legislative counsel Shoshana Bricklin told members of the Ridge Park Civic Association Thursday night.

Green Woods’ CEO, Jean Wallace, declined this week to confirm details of the school’s continued search for a new home. Board members met Wednesday night, and school representatives were expected to attend the Ridge Park Civic Association’s (RPCA) quarterly meeting to give neighbors an update but decided it would be premature, Wallace said.

“It was always our goal, however, to come to RCPA having first done some preliminary due diligence so that we were well prepared to answer questions based on facts,” she said in an email. “This due diligence could not begin until important decisions were made by our board. We now need the necessary time to do some preliminary work so that we are prepared for meeting with the RCPA and the community.”

No deal yet, just an interest

Beth Keenan, who has owned the popular Roxborough restaurant and catering hall — home to countless wedding and baby showers, funeral lunches and rehearsal dinners (including this reporter’s) — since 1981, confirmed the school has been in contact with the business but there was no deal in place.

“There’s no money, no agreement, there’s just an interest,” Keenan said. “We have bookings, we’re not looking to sell and move right now.”

The school, currently located on the grounds of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, has approval to grow to a total of 675 students but can’t expand at its current site. In May, a plan to buy, restore and expand the Greylock Manor site in Chestnut Hill sputtered after neighborhood opposition. Given that experience, and the school’s popularity among Northwest parents, Green Woods officials have been reluctant to speculate publicly about potential new locations.

Bricklin said Jones had been scheduled to tour Germany Hill with members of the civic association — something they say he has been promising to do for years — on the day before Thanksgiving, but rain prevented them. Still, Bricklin said, Jones is on board with neighbors’ efforts to keep Germany Hill out of developers’ hands.

Tensions arise over communication with Jones’ office 

Since the last RCPA meeting, in September, at least one discussion has taken place between Jones and members of the civic, who have expressed frustration with getting access to and results from his office.

It was clear during Bricklin’s appearance at the civic’s meeting that tensions remain strained. Board members of the civic were vocally offended that Bricklin opened her remarks by announcing she had to leave to attend another event; on several topics, members pressed Bricklin for more detail than she seemed prepared to give.

“I’m absolutely offended,” RCPA President Gary Ferris said. “We only meet quarterly, I’m not asking for anything different than other civics.” 

Blaise Syrnick said he’s been trying for years to get Jones’ office to come through on promises to get three streetlights replaced on the Fountain Street steps below Umbria Street.

“If you guys take my email one more time,” Syrnick said, shaking his head. “I don’t need an email. Fix the lights.”

Defending his efforts 

Jones told NewsWorks he is committed to keeping Germany Hill from being developed and will continue to help the school, which he called “a gem of the 4th District and the City of Philadelphia,” to find a new home.

“We are trying to land manage,” Jones said, while trying to please both neighbors while respecting the rights of property owners in an increasingly popular section of the city.

On his office’s relationship with the Ridge Park Civic and his responsiveness to neighborhood concerns, Jones pointed to a list of projects from liquor enforcement at the Manayunk Bike Race, to street improvements along Ridge Avenue, to efforts to improve the Kendrick Rec Center, as “tangible, measurable results.”

“Under that level of scrutiny, I think we have done well,” he said. “These are quantifiable things that have been done.”

See the letter Councilman Jones sent to the Ridge Park Civic Association on Monday, Dec. 5. 

Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.